Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant defended Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook after the NBA MVP candidate was asked about hunting assists late in OKC's 120-99 road loss against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Friday night.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com noted the triple-double machine replied, "F--k, I'm 6-25, what you want me to do?" when asked about the situation after finishing with eight assists. Bryant took to social media to comment on the line of questioning:
The Suns, who own the league's second-worst record, heard their home fans start cheering for the opportunity to see history in the fourth quarter. Westbrook is one triple-double away from setting the new single-season record in the category.
Phoenix small forward Jared Dudley said his team understood the situation and was focused on making sure he didn't break the record, per ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon:
Fourth quarter, we had such a big lead and the only thing he needed was assists, so the whole game plan changed. He was still in the game down 20, 25, and you could see he was being real passive, so we just stayed home; and if he was going to do a drop-off, we were going to foul and make them earn it. If he was going to earn it, it was going to be somewhere else.
I hope he gets it, just not here, not versus us. We've dealt with enough problems this year, so to have another history against us and have to watch it 20 years from now, I'm glad it's not us.
Meanwhile, Ryne Nelson of Slam Online passed along comments from Suns point guard Tyler Ulis, who said the focus became clear when Westbrook started passing up open looks.
"That's all he was trying to do. He was wide-open, trying to find guys," he said. "We stuck to him, ran guys off the line, and it didn't happen."
The 28-year-old Thunder stalwart seemed like a lock to break the record after tying it Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. It's become clear no team wants to have its name in the record book alongside his, however, so the pressure is starting to build down the stretch.
Westbrook has now gone two straight games without a triple-double. The Memphis Grizzlies held him one rebound short Wednesday night.
He has three games remaining to set the new standard. The next opportunity comes on the road Sunday against the Denver Nuggets.
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